Why do sane Republicans support Trump?

In a hyphenated word… self-delusion :-).  Really good piece by Fred Hiatt last week that gets at the psychology of otherwise reasonable Republicans supporting this fabulously unqualified charlatan:

For every Gov. John Kasich (who stayed away) or Sen. Ted Cruz (who came but did not endorse), there are a dozen Republican bigwigs in Cleveland who believe Donald Trump is unfit to be president but have endorsed him anyway.

How do they live with their decisions? These are politicians who are privately persuaded that Trump is too ignorant, too narcissistic, too potentially tyrannical, not genuinely conservative—or some combination of the above. So how to justify an endorsement?

I’ve had a chance to ask some of them on the sidelines of the convention this week. The most common answer is: We know Hillary Clinton will be terrible, whereas we might be wrong about Trump, so let’s take a chance.  [emphases in original]

But I’ve also heard: Donald Trump doesn’t care about policy or understand how it is shaped, so Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will set the agenda. In this fantasy, Trump would be satisfied with the trappings of the office, while a Republican Congress finally gets to work its will.

Then there’s the vision of Trump as empty vessel: Donald Trump has no fixed beliefs, but he will surround himself with genuine conservatives who will gradually shape his ideology.

Or this variation: Donald Trump has despotic tendencies, but the people around him in the White House and the Cabinet will rein in his worst instincts.

If that fails, there is this: If necessary he can be impeached.

And finally, from an ardent free-trader whom I pressed about supporting someone who would impose tariffs, spark trade wars and potentially trigger a global depression: It’s okay — he can’t win.

I’m sure it is more difficult politically than most of us can imagine for a Republican to stay aloof from the Republican candidate for president. The one genuine, uniting sentiment in the party this year is a visceral, almost frenzied hatred of Hillary Clinton. One congressman who has yet to endorse told me the blowback from constituents is intense and constant.

But I’m also pretty sure that most of these people know the stories they tell themselves are fiction. Donald Trump is not going to win the most powerful job in the world only to let some uncharismatic wannabes down Pennsylvania Avenue dictate his agenda. A man who wins the presidency by taking advice only from himself, and maybe his adult children, is not going to suddenly learn to govern by committee. As to impeachment: it is beyond far-fetched to think that Republican legislators who cannot stand up to Trump while he is a private citizen will find new courage to resist him once he has the power of the presidency.

The way I see it, if you are a Republican who believes we should have a minimally-qualified president who is not a literal threat to democracy and our Constitutional order, the Republican Party already lost this election in the primaries when it chose Trump.  To pretend otherwise is simply to lie to oneself about the epic horribleness that is Trump.  Understandable, yes, but complete self delusion nonetheless.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

5 Responses to Why do sane Republicans support Trump?

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    The reason these Republicans who agree that Trump is dangerous if elected President are supporting him is the Supreme Court. They must keep a majority to overturn Roe V Wade, to support voter suppression and gerrymandering, to keep big money in politics, to weaken civil rights legislation, to give religion a bigger role in governing, to prevent unions from regaining power and to preserve their own power. They are reasonably confident that Trump will give them those judges. They want to lock these policies in tightly because they know the demographics are against them in future elections. With control of the court in their hands, Democrats and other democracy proponents will be stymied for generations to come, regardless of the outcomes of future elections.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Yeah, and that :-). But they are selling their souls for those judges.

      • R. Jenrette says:

        I agree but they may think it’s a good bargain. Men have sold their souls for less.
        There’s that old saying tho – if you dine with the devil, you’d better have a long spoon.

  2. pino says:

    there are a dozen Republican bigwigs in Cleveland who believe Donald Trump is unfit to be president but have endorsed him anyway.

    I am Never Trump and will vote for Johnson. But the reason people are voting for Trump is that Hillary Clinton is perhaps the most unfit candidate I can remember. She literally has no redeeming qualifications.

    I take that back.

    She’s a girl and she is not Trump. That seems to be enough for her supporters.

    • Steve Greene says:

      To say, “She literally has no redeeming qualifications.” is to just completely undermine your credibility as a political observer/commentator. I’m not going to list her redeeming qualifications because that would be to engage with a facially absurd comment.

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